With the many late season races around the corner, such as the Iceman Cometh race – the largest mountain bike race in the country, and countless cyclocross regional and national championship races about to happen, peaking for these races becomes a priority. If you have worked hard all season, you certainly want to go out on a good note and fuel the fire for next year with a great feeling fast race. So, to feel good late season, keep in mind these few simple tips.
Leg Speed workouts are probably the most beneficial this time of year. You have already spent a season building endurance and the ability to handle hard fast threshold efforts, so working leg speed is like the icing on the cake. Fast leg speed efforts, from 30 seconds to minutes long, will stress the neurological systems, getting the central nervous system to adapt to the faster movement. Efforts may only increase your cadence slightly but more importantly, that will improve your efficiency, which will improve your endurance and overall average speed.
Intensity must be a part of your weekly training schedule. If you are racing often into the late season, then fewer days devoted to intensity should take place, such as one or two days. If you are not racing a lot, then at least two days per week can be devoted to working hard. One to two minute efforts at and above threshold heart rate and power levels should be a main focus. Hard short efforts keep your anaerobic systems active, and along with the leg speed work, will provide you with the ability to work fast hard efforts repeatedly throughout a race. Space your intense days with at least one, if not two to three, easier endurance spin days to allow for full recovery. Spacing intense workouts are important as it is easy to work too much intensity too often late in the year, leading to over trained muscles.
Moderate weekly hours are all that’s needed. This is individual for everyone, but in general, reducing total weekly volume by 25-35% of your normal early-mid season volume will provide you with enough training to maintain endurance and fitness through late season, while recovering from the intensity needed to do well. If you are coming off a full year of training and racing, too many hours late in the season can easily lead to mental burnout, over trained legs, and injury. The occasional big week of hours is OK, but consecutive week after week can lead to trouble. It’s impossible to go 100% at everything all the time, we are all human. So, tapering off on hours late in the year allows you to perform well while recovering mentally and physically from your race season.
Easy Spins are probably used more now than all year. Easy spins, like zone 1-2 spinning is a great way to recover from intensity, races, training volume and mental overload. Spacing super intense days with at least one easy spin day is wise. The focus this time of year is on speed, not endurance, so recovering from intense days will allow you to go at the next intense day harder.
Rest is one of the key factors in doing well late in the year. With fewer weekly hours, there is more time for rest, so it is important to make sure you take advantage of it. Make sure there is at least one or two full rest days per week a few weeks leading up to the last final race. Give your body a break, let it recover from training and prepare for one last race pace effort. All out rest days play a key role in feeling fresh at the end of the year, use them often and wisely.
Listen to your body, we are all on different levels, have different goals and have had different race seasons. For most, the main goal this time of year is to maintain fitness and finish out the race season feeling strong. Finishing on a good note is not only fun, it builds confidence that will provide a great amount of motivation as you train through the off-season and into 2015. Work hard, train smart and enjoy the fall season.
Mike Schultz, CSCS